New CEO cuts Chesapeake Energy's lifestyle largesse

Wed Oct 9, 2013 8:47am EDT
 
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By Anna Driver

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The chaplains and company gardener are gone now, along with a weatherman who made more than a quarter million dollars a year, as Chesapeake Energy Corp CEO Doug Lawler chops away at the high costs left behind by his free-spending predecessor, Aubrey McClendon.

If McClendon was known for lavish spending on perks for employees and his voracious appetite for acquiring oil and gas properties in U.S. shale basins, Lawler is building a reputation for focusing the country's No. 2 producer of natural gas on its core business.

"You had too much land and you had too many people," said a source close to the company's board of directors. "Those things had to be fixed."

The company has cut 1,200 jobs so far this year, or 10 percent of its workforce, and its stock price has risen by 20 percent since Lawler took over. On Tuesday, it said it cut 800 of those jobs, with more than 600 at its Oklahoma City campus.

Lawler's broad review that aims to shrink the oil and gas company was scheduled to end by November 1.

Chesapeake has sold about $4 billion in assets this year in addition to trimming jobs.

Internal records seen by Reuters show that the company's payroll in 2012 included a meteorologist who made $350,000 in salary, three chaplains, seven chefs, two company archivists, a fitness center staff of 15 people and a gardener, along with the hundreds of geologists and petroleum engineers normally needed to run an oil and gas business.

A company chaplain reached at home said he no longer works for Chesapeake. No one answers the phone at the Chicago office for Chesapeake Weather and its website has been taken down.   Continued...

 
Chesapeake Energy Corporation's 50 acre campus is seen in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Steve Sisney